Sex crimes have such a negative connotation that being charged with one automatically leads to guilt in many people’s minds. Therefore, it’s extremely important to understand the definitions of sex crime charges. Charges involving child pornography are especially pernicious. As reported by herald-mail.com, a 46-year-old former youth soccer coach was recently sentenced in federal court to 25 years in prison. Earlier he had pled guilty to using a pinhole camera to make videos of a girl under 16 and distributing the sexually explicit images over the Internet using a file-sharing program. He was charged with sexually exploiting a minor to produce pornography. In another news story reported by wbaltv.com, a substitute teacher in Howard County was arrested and charged with the possession of child pornography. The case began when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children identified a number of child pornographic uploads traced to the same user at two separate computers in the county. One was traced to the middle school where the 43-year-old man taught and the other at his home.
Possible state and federal charges
The two news stories, one in federal court and the other in state court, illustrate the possible violations of state and federal law that are implicated in cases of child pornography. In Maryland, state law makes it a criminal offense for anyone to knowingly possess and intentionally retain any visual representation of a child under the age of 16 engaging in a sexual act or in a state of sexual excitement. A first-time offender is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to up to five years of prison time or a fine of up to $2,500 or both. Subsequent convictions are a felony and the punishment increases to up to 10 years in prison or up to a $10,000 fine or both. If someone is convicted of distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute an image of a child engaged in sexual conduct, it is a felony for which the punishment is up to 10 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine for the first offense. A subsequent violation risks punishment up to 20 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.
Prosecution under federal law is also a distinct possibility. Federal law makes certain acts a federal offense when it implicates interstate commerce. That simply means using the U.S. mails or common carriers to transport child pornography across a state line. Using the Internet often triggers federal jurisdiction. “Knowingly using” a means of interstate commerce to mail or ship a child pornographic image or to receive such images can lead to a prison sentence from five to 20 years. It is also illegal to entice a child to engage in sexual conduct for the purpose producing any visual image.
Any charge, whether federal or state, involving the making, possession, or distribution of child pornography is serious and has severe and long-lasting consequences. Anyone who is charged with such an offense should seek the immediate advice of an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney.